If any of the 2010 soccer World Cup local organisers had denied an attack of butterflies when the preliminary draw was held at Durban's International Convention Centre at end November, he or she would surely have been a stranger to the truth.
The occasion was the first big test of timekeeping, slickness, hoopla and razzmatazz for sports' most extravagant global event, and some 5,000 football and government officials and celebrities were there to see if the South Africans could get it right.
President Mbeki and the First Lady were in attendance, as were a slew of cabinet ministers and local dignitaries. Sepp Blatter, the Fifa czar, was present along with an entourage of local and international soccer worthies. In the end, everything went off smoothly, 'hitchless', as one relieved organiser put it. Truth be told, it was a night of high spectacle with world-class entertainment and a draw that was as smooth as any of its predecessors, anywhere in the world.
"Now there's no doubt that the 2010 World Cup will be here, will be a big success," enthused Blatter at the draw ceremony, to which South African football legend Kaizer Motaung rejoined: "Today confirms that we as a country are really getting ready to host this event," and President Mbeki observed: "The tournament will be a significant catalyst, which will assist our efforts as a country and continent. Africa is ready, Africa's time has come."
The jubilation at the draw belied, to some extent, the angst leading up to the ceremony. A massive police presence kept a lid on crime in the hotel and convention centre precincts with the exception of the snatching of a briefcase belonging to German coach Oliver Bierhoff.
In a reminder of South Africa's prevalent violent crime, an Austrian tourist was shot and killed for his mobile phone as he played a round of golf at Selbourne Country Club some 70km down the coast from Durban.
Blatter was quick to respond to the news by pointing out that such a tragedy could occur anywhere in the world. "On Friday evening in a bus station or tram station in Zurich a young girl of 16 years old was shot. Crime is everywhere," he said.
In probably South Africa's biggest-ever security exercise, more than 30,000 police officers are being recruited and trained specifically for strategic deployment for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
A statement by the 2010 Government Fifa World Cup Unit confirmed that South Africa's Security Master Plan has...